This Day in History – July 1st

1867 – The British North America Act of 1867 comes into effect, creating the dominion of Canada – We’ll have to wait until next year to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday (or sesquicentennial), but, in the mean time, let’s take a look back at how Canada Day came to be. In 1864, the premiers of the British North American provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island planned to meet to discuss a Maritime Union that would join their three colonies together. They were surprised to learn that the premier of the province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), John A. Macdonald was also interested in taking part in these discussions. They met in Charlottetown in September 1864 to discuss how they could all join together in federation. They met again in Quebec City that October; “Never was there such an opportunity as now for the birth of a nation,” wrote one observing journalist at the time, though, P.E.I. was disappointed at not being guaranteed six members in the proposed House of Commons and backed out. In December 1866, 16 Canadian delegates had private meetings with Queen Victoria in London, England. Several months later, the Queen gave royal assent to the British North America Act, which came into effect on this date in 1867. Also on that day, Macdonald was knighted, and became the first Prime Minister of Canada and its first four provinces, Ontario and Quebec – which were split – as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In June of the next year, Governor General Charles Monck issued a proclamation for Canadians to celebrate the anniversary of Confederation. It was almost a decade before July 1 was officially designated as “Dominion Day,” and almost a century before the federal government began organizing regular celebrations on the day. It wasn’t until 1982 that the name of the holiday officially became “Canada Day,” and there have even been some, including then-Reform Party MP Stephen Harper in 1996, who have attempted to have the name changed back to Dominion Day.

Charlottetown_Conference1873 – Prince Edward Island joins Confederation – Though delegates from the “Cradle of Confederation” hosted one of the most famous meetings leading up to Confederation, the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, it wasn’t until this date in 1873 that P.E.I. joined Confederation to become Canada’s seventh province, following the original four, Manitoba (which joined July 15, 1870, on the same day Ottawa took over control of Northwest Territories from the British Crown) and British Columbia (July 20, 1871). Upon its joining, the government of Canada assumed the extensive debt P.E.I. accumulated building its railways. The Royal Prince the island is named after, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820) was a son of King George III and father to Queen Victoria, who was responsible for allowing Canada to become a dominion. Thus P.E.I.’s namesake is sometimes called “Father of the Canadian Crown.” Though they joined up a little late, P.E.I. has many buildings and monuments that honour the role the island played in Confederation, including Confederation Bridge, which links the province to New Brunswick, and Charlotteotwn’s Confederation Centre of the Arts.

1977 – Two-time “Rocket” Richard Award winner, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Jarome Iginla is born – Today is the 39th birthday of shoe-in future Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla was born in Edmonton, son to a white American mother and a black Nigerian father. Iginla’s parents split up when he was a year old, and he was raised by his mother and grandparents in nearby St. Albert, Alberta. Growing up he was an exceptional baseball player, but he was in the heart of Edmonton Oilers country and became a huge fan of their goalie Grant Fuhr, who would later become the first black player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 1994 at 16, Iginla won the Memorial Cup as a member of the Kamloops Blazers, alongside teammate and tournament MVP Darcy Tucker. They won it again the following year, with Shane Doan of the Blazers winning tournament MVP this time, while Iginla was winner of the George Parsons Trophy for sportsmanship. In 1995, he was selected 11th overall by the Dallas Stars, who then proceeded to trade him to Calgary as part of a deal for Joe Nieuwendyk. Before heading to the NHL, however, “Iggy” joined Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Boston, leading all scorers to help Canada win its fourth consecutive gold medal. He debuted for Calgary as an 18-year-old, registering an assist in his first game, and scoring a goal in his second. Since then, his career has been a pretty legendary one, winning Olympic gold medals in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Vancouver in 2010, where he assisted on Sidney Crosby’s tournament-winning goal. Iginla has never hoisted the Stanley Cup, but he came within just one win of doing so in 2004 when his Flames fell to the Lightning in seven games.

1997 – China regains sovereignty over the city-state of Hong Kong after over 150 years of British colonial rule – At midnight on June 30, 1997 the British flag was lowered in front of Hong Kong’s Government House, which had been home to the last British Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten, for the last time.The flag was presented to Patten, before he was driven off in his official Rolls Royce. It is seen by some as the symbolic end of the British Empire. Discussions about the future of Hong Kong had begun in the early 1980s between then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang. “The story of this great city is about the years before this night and the years of success that will surely follow it,” Patten said in his farewell speech. Britain has controlled the island and city of Hong Kong since 1842, apart from a brief period during World War II when it was controlled by Japan. On this date in 1997, over 500 Chinese troops crossed the land border into Hong Kong following a banquet and fireworks display in Victoria Harbour. Among the guests for the final handover ceremony were Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair. In Beijing, the ceremony was watched on giant screens in Tiananmen Square. Tung Chee-hwa was sworn in as Hong Kong’s new leader and bestowed Patten’s Rolls Royce at the city’s legislative council building, as the Hong Kong Democratic Party began a demonstration outside. Former governor Patten and Prince Charles sailed aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, after waving a final farewell.

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